A step tracker that is so much more: Pedometer++

, 7 minutes to read, 120 views

I used to have a Garmin watch, which has built in routing as well as built in maps, based on Open Street Maps. I was quite happy with my Garmin watch1 but at some point I switched to something that is a bit more smartwatch and a bit less fitness watch. So far, so good.

Switching to Apple Watch

I switched to an Apple Watch, being a bit pulled by the promise of better battery life2 of the Apple Watch Ultra. I may have also been tricked by the advertising which shows some extreme sports, that make me feel like I would also do that. In fact, I have worn the watch multiple times, even when it was raining a bit3.

The Apple Watch is a quite great smartwatch, and for me, crucially, it allows having some mobile connectivity without bringing a phone. As such, I can listen to podcasts or Spotify when running, and I can also take a call, even though I don’t have my phone with me4. But my actual, very specific use case is listening to podcasts through Pocketcasts when I’m running5.

And as with most Apple devices, the Apple Watch is well-built and has many very useful features. And a bunch I will never use of course as well. The built-in workout app, after all it seems that Apple is gearing this watch towards athletes6, is good enough. Compared to Garmin, it lacks quite a bit of features, not the least it doesn’t have map support. Apart from the current time and my current distance, maps were always something I found most useful on the Garmin devices. But it seems the Apple approach is to offer the bare minimum and then offer an App store. Which seems to work fine in this case.

This is Pedometer++

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on introducing the app, the app’s website does a much better job of this and since I mostly use it on my Apple Watch, I don’t have any screenshots7. When I first opened up the app, I thought it was mostly about checking if I had reached, my rather arbitrary goal, of 10'000 steps. But then I figured out that it has so many more useful features.

For a start, it has funny badges, and it also has an excellent mode, where you don’t need to hit your goal every day, but you get a rest day from time to time. If any of the Apple Rings developers are here, that would be a godsend. I mean, that is also how you are supposed to train. The app is so well-designed with small, but really subtle nudging features.

The app also has a great routing tool where you can plan your route and then navigate on the phone or, and this is the most revolutionary, on the watch. It doesn’t have the best-in-class navigation features that Garmin watches have, such as turn-by-turn, but it comes pretty close. Having tried it out, there are two downsides: Firstly, the battery does go down a bit faster than the normal workout app, but that is unfortunately expected, since everything takes a bit more energy than not having a map displayed. Secondly, you need to have connectivity for the maps. It is somehow possible to download the maps to offline on the phone, but not on the watch. This is really a shame, as I often go running on the hills behind me, where there is no or very little cellular connectivity. For running this is the best, but for the maps it’s not that great. As a sliver lining, this is not that big of a problem. I know the hills behind me and when I’m running some other place this is less of an issue, but it would still be nice to have some offline maps on the watch as well.

The app allows recording hikes, walks and runs, which is really all you need, and it works well for this. It, of course, focuses more on the maps and less on the data (rather than the official workout app) but it has all the data you need to see (at least in my case). And of course, it records everything you require in the background anyway. One kind of funny bug I have found, sometimes it will display my average pace as 5:60 instead of 6:00 min/km. This is a bit confusing when you first see it, but it’s really not a problem since it doesn’t happen that often, and you get used to it8.

Overall, I really like the app. Maybe at some point I will come up with a rating scale, but for now, this is just a recommendation to use it if you need maps on your watch to navigate a hike, run or walk. And paying for pro is definitely worth it. So I give it Oli’s stamp of approval.

Wishlist

I do have two things to add to my wishlist for this app.

Firstly, I think I would appreciate it if we could really get the offline maps, and specifically also some more map styles. The default map style works fine, it’s some outdoors theme for open street map, and it looks beautiful enough. But given that in Switzerland the official maps have now become free, it would be really cool to see them integrated.

Secondly, I would like to see some more running specific features. I would like to have the goals feature of the workout app, where I can say I want to run for 8.4 km. And I would love to have a structured workout mode for my interval training. And here I also see a chance to improve on the normal workout app in two very specific ways: Let me set up my intervals on my phone and let me choose if I add the recovery step at the last repetition before going to cooldown. So simple, and it would be so great.


  1. Garmin has a bit of a tendency of shipping software, that is not always super stable. In my experience, it is best to have a Garmin device that is about one year old, to ensure that the software has become stable. ↩︎

  2. The battery life of the Apple Watch Ultra is fine, but it is in no way great. Especially when using it in stand-alone mode (not tied to a phone) and some of the more advanced features, the battery doesn’t last a long as I would have thought. If you are streaming music, navigating and potentially also taking phone calls at the same time, the battery will drain rapidly. For most normal daily use, the battery lasts a good 1.5 days, which is fine, but not great. ↩︎

  3. Sometimes sarcasm doesn’t come across as well in writing, so I would just like to confirm that I am indeed making a bit of fun of the average person wearing their Apple Watch Ultra for a walk or to play some golf. ↩︎

  4. Maybe even more than being reachable, is being able to call someone in case I ever need to, for example when tripping while running. Let’s hope I never have to use that feature. ↩︎

  5. Might say something about how much I like listening to podcasts, that I would pay that much just to be able to access them while running. ↩︎

  6. I think athletes is a pretty broad word here. I would say anyone who does some sport or wants to start doing some is an athlete. And if you have a Strava account, you are an athlete for sure. ↩︎

  7. Look, apparently there is a way to take screenshots on the Apple Watch, but frankly I can’t be bothered. I take enough accident screenshots on my phone as it is, I don’t need to add to that with my watch as well. ↩︎

  8. My software developer brain very much thinks that this is probably a rounding error because it will then also jump from 5:60 to 6:00 if you go a bit slower. ↩︎

Tags: Application, Smartwatch, Sports, Wearables